The Eames Experience

In establishing a new foundation, the Eames family learns that promoting the legacy of Charles and Ray extends beyond preservation of the iconic house.

Charles Eames’s only daughter, Lucia, inherited the iconic Eames house in 1988 after the death of her stepmother Ray. The house—along with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, Mies van der Rohe’s Tugendhat House, and Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye—is one of the world’s most significant modern residences. Built as part of John Entenza’s Case Study House Program, the house and studio has acquired near shrine-like status in the minds of architects and designers. It was more than a home; it was a laboratory of creative thinking.

But the house was the product of a different economic and social era. Sited on an impressive piece of property in Pacific Palisades—an upscale Los Angeles neighborhood where real estate prices have skyrocketed—the house is small by today’s standards. This gap between the value of the land and the modesty of the house (its pedigree, notwithstanding) is essentially a preservation issue.

Lucia and her five children have chosen to address this issue by establishing the Eames Foundation, dedicated to preserving the house and extending the work and legacy of Charles and Ray through education. “The foundation is a brand new animal,” says Lucia’s son, Eames Demetrios, who serves as chairman of the organization. “Mom doesn’t own the Eames house anymore. That’s a huge step. The next step is to create an endowment.”

The house itself has aged remarkably well. Built in 1949, it has survived its share of California earthquakes over the years. During a recent Metropolis interview, Lucia toured the house, pointing out the tumbleweed hanging from the ceiling picked up by the Eameses on their honeymoon drive across the country; an unopened present given to Ray with the wrapping paper crumbling into shreds; the constantly shifting patterns on the windows from the trees outside. “The connections, the connections, the connections,” Charles Eames once said. “It will in the end be these details that give the product its life.” Everything suddenly made sense.

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